On today's BradCast, we've got trouble both at home and abroad. But what else is new? [Audio link to full program is posted at the end of this summary.]
As if our domestic problems aren't disturbing enough, a couple of roiling foreign policy issues are landing on Joe Biden's desk this week. The President met via video-conference on Tuesday with Russia President Vladimir Putin to discuss the troubling build-up of Russian forces near the border of eastern Ukraine, suggesting a full-scale invasion of the former Soviet bloc country could be imminent in coming weeks and months. Biden reportedly threatened serious economic consequences for Russia if that happens. For his part, Putin seeks a commitment from NATO that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the joint defense organization. That condition is said to be a non-starter for both Biden and our NATO allies.
Elsewhere, China is none too happy with Biden's decision to implement a "diplomatic boycott" of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Though U.S. athletes will be allowed to attend, Administration officials will not, leading China to describe the move as an "outright political provocation" and vowing "firm countermeasures," whatever that might mean.
Meanwhile, here at home, we're still trying to clean up after Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, while trying to prevent him and the Republicans from more successfully stealing future elections. It won't be easy.
Last week, following the two federal indictments of Steve Bannon for failing to answer lawful subpoenas issued by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows agreed --- sort of --- to cooperate with the Committee in regards his own subpoenas. Today, he reportedly changed his mind and, in turn, may also now be looking at indictments in the days ahead, along with two years in prison. Apparently his boss, the disgraced, twice-impeached former President, doesn't want him talking to the Committee for some reason. Happily, Mike Pence's former Chief of Staff, reportedly --- along with hundreds of others --- are already doing so.
With at least some accountability now likely in the offing for Meadows --- even as Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice has, to date, brought no accountability on its own to the former President and his criminal clan for an endless list of crimes that includes the attempt to steal 2020 --- the Department filed a new lawsuit against Texas on Monday. The litigation seeks to block the Lone Star State's new Congressional and legislative maps as violations of the Voting Rights Act. While Texas gained two new House seats following the 2020 Census, they have now added two new White-majority Congressional Districts and eliminated a Latino-controlled seat. That, despite the fact that 95% of the population growth in the state is thanks to Latinos and Blacks. The DoJ, in their press conference announcing the suit yesterday, noted this isn't the first time TX has attempted to racially gerrymander its maps for partisan advantage. Though it may be much more difficult to challenge them this time around with the gutting of the VRA by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years and, of course, the Republicans having packed the Court's 6 to 3 majority.
But as the GOP prepares to win a majority of the House in 2022 with a minority of votes from Americans, the vagaries of both the U.S. Constitution and the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887 may make it easier to steal the Presidential election in 2024 as well. Longtime Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg --- who helped steal the 2000 election for George W. Bush but rejected Trump's attempts to steal 2020 --- is now pressing his own party to reform the ECA before it comes back to bite them in the future.
It was, in fact, confusion surrounding the incredibly poorly written ECA that Team Trump hoped to exploit to their advantage when they tried to coerce then Vice President Mike Pence to declare electoral votes in a number of swing-states to be invalid during the joint session of Congress to certify the electoral votes on January 6. He refused, but the usually pro forma Congressional certification of the Electoral College, as you know, was then interrupted by Trump's MAGA Mob insurrection, in his last desperate attempt to steal the election that he lost.
We were joined on this program, on January 4th, by election law scholar and democracy activist PAUL LEHTO who joined us to warn, at the time, of the dangers that awaited on January 6th, thanks in no small part to the confusing ECA and Team Trump's attempts to take advantage of that confusion. Lehto joins us again today to discuss Ginsberg's recommendations to reform the Act and whether such reforms --- even if they could ever be adopted by the current dysfunctionally divided Congress --- would help to avoid another attempted theft of the Electoral College by Trump...or anyone else.
"If Congress understood that all they are doing is tabulating votes --- their scope is very limited --- they wouldn't have these disagreements about whether the Vice President has a sweeping authority to do this," Lehto explains. "They would realize they're clerks. But because that's not an understanding that's out there like it ought to be, yet another major norm of democracy, you could say, is being completely violated. And that's why there are so many holes that can be manipulated in the ECA. Because people are looking for 'How can we game the system?'"
Lehto, whose warnings were prescient in November, December and January, warns today that while the ECA "ought to be amended...whenever you close a loophole, the action just moves to the loopholes that still exist. Amending the ECA all by itself isn't going to solve the problem. Because you have constitutional issues, you have issues of people being partisan when they really should be patriots and act like clerks counting ballots."
He also has a few thoughts on what would help make Presidential elections less fraught and easily exploited, which involves both transparency and some key changes to the Constitution. "I think maybe what Democrats don't fully give enough weight to is the fact that we have an ancient Constitution that did not provide a democratic means of selecting the President," he tells me. "So that feels anti-democratic and fraudulent to Democrats, but that's what the system was set up. So we need to amend the Constitution in order to have it line up with what our reasonable expectations are for living in a modern democracy."
Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report, with troubling news for the Western U.S. and for Christmas tree fans, but with a bit of good news out of Scotland...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)